SEREMBAN: Ng Zhi Hui’s orchid nursery is a riot of colours but it’s easy to miss if you’re driving around Seremban, or on the way to nearby Port Dickson.
The Seremban Orchid Nursery is nestled in the heart of Mambau, a township some 10km from the city. It was started 34 years ago by Ng’s father, whose childhood hobby was growing orchids.
Now, it is a lucrative source of income for the father-son duo who rake in monthly sales of up to RM50,000.
The bulk of their customers are high-end collectors who are always on the look-out for prize specimens. Rare species at their nursery can go for up to several thousand ringgit, not including the hybrid species with which they experiment.
One particular hybrid specimen, for instance, was named and gifted to former menteri besar Mohamad Hasan. But most of the plants cost anywhere from RM40 to RM50 per pot.
Ng and his father bring in several large shipments a year, sometimes 3,000 to 5,000 orchids at a time which require the use of five-tonne lorries.
There are only a handful of orchid farms in Seremban, so business is good and competition is low. During Chinese New Year and Hari Raya, especially, sales can double and sometimes even triple.
Ng, 31, is a marketing graduate. He began working with his father full-time about four years ago, and told FMT that he always expected to take over the family business.
For Ng, a regular day at the nursery entails checking each of the thousand-over plants to see if they need watering. This would be a monumental task if not for the special moss they use for the orchids. It is 10 times more expensive than regular soil, but it means that Ng and his team of five only need to water the plants once a week.
This moss is sourced from South America while the baby orchid plants – anywhere from six to eight months old – come from Selangor.
The plants are sent to Ng’s nursery in glass bottles. For the next five years, he and his team monitor their growth, gradually increasing the size of pots.
Other orchids, especially those that are found at higher altitudes, grow comfortably in greenhouses which trap cold air from air-conditioners as opposed to warm air.
It’s a tedious job, but orchid farmers like Ng must be constantly on their toes. Everything Ng knows, he attributes to his father.
“I learned all that I know from my sifu,” he told FMT.
Ng’s father, a seasoned judge at orchid pageants and international events, was just recently in Taiwan for a show. He was once part of the Seremban Orchid Society, but the group was disbanded after a drop in its membership.
This doesn’t mean that orchid growing is a dying interest, though.
“For now, it won’t die because there are still a lot of people who enjoy collecting orchids,” Ng said.
“Even people who are in their 60s or 70s take up orchid growing as a hobby when they are retired.”
Orchids can live for decades if they are not exposed to bacterial infections or bad weather. Perhaps the same will go for Ng and his fellow orchid farmers.